So, what are the last words you say when you are leaving others? I find myself often ending a phone conversation with family members by saying, “Goodbye, I love you.” Those words are not just meaningless words, but are intended to remind those who are so precious to me that I cherish them.
Thinking about this led me to wonder what parting words were used by the writers of the epistles. I actually was amazed when I took time to look into this matter. Some of them ended their letters by sending greetings or expressing expectations to see others soon, but there is one phrase used consistently by Paul in his writings. Before reading more about the answer to this question, what phrase or phrases did Paul use as he ended his letters?
Paul’s parting words in his epistles. To the Corinthians, he said, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus” and “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . be with you all” (1 Cor. 16:23-24; 2 Cor. 13:14). As he finished his letter to the churches of Galatia, he said, “Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Gal. 6:18). He had preached in Ephesus for three years and ended the epistle to them by saying, “Grace be with all of those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Eph. 6:24). To the Colossians, he said, “Grace be with you” (Col. 4:18). The apostle to the Gentiles ended both letters to the Thessalonians with “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you” (1 Thess. 5:28; 2 Thess. 3:18). He used the same words in the three epistles to younger preachers, “Grace be with you” (1 Tim. 6:21; 2 Tim. 4:22; Tit. 3:15). He finished that very personal letter to Philemon by saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” The same idea is found in the last verse of Hebrews, “Grace be with you all.”
Paul’s emphasis on grace. Should there be any wonder as to why Paul magnified grace in his letters? He constantly had to deal with Judaizing teachers who tried to bind the law on Gentiles. Even more overwhelming was Paul’s realization that he, the chief of sinners, had received grace from God. The remembrance of His grace is the prime motivation for spiritual maturity (2 Pet. 1:8-9). He never wanted those around him to lose sight of the grace of God.
The emphasis of your words. What words, not just the parting ones, do people hear you mentioning most often? Do they ever hear a spiritual emphasis, or is it always on secular matters? One could not be around Paul without hearing about grace. What do those around you hear from you?
Palm Beach Lakes Church of Christ
Palm Beach Lakes, GA